Rachael Ray may find herself with some extra time on her hands.
Insiders say the demanding TV cook’s syndicated daytime show, “Rachael Ray,” carried here on WABC/Channel 7, will be getting the ax at the end of her contract.
An impeccable TV source told Page Six, “They are seriously talking about taking her off the air.”
The problem is Ray’s ratings. When she debuted two years ago, she had a meager 2.5 rating, which her syndicator, King World, nonetheless trumpeted as “The biggest syndicated debut since ‘Dr. Phil.’ ” In fact, one insider said, “They had hoped for more. ‘Dr. Phil’ beats ‘Oprah’ and gets like a 5.0 rating - and Rachael’s set is very expensive and elaborate; his is just chairs.”
A rep for Ray fumed that she’s not alone in her falling numbers: Oprah, who discovered the bubbly chef, was down 15 percent from February 2007 as were “Live with Regis and Kelly,” “The Tyra Banks Show” and “The Martha Stewart Show.”
In 2007, Ray’s syndicated show averaged a 2.2 Nielsen rating and has already dipped to 2.0 this year. An insider said, “Anything below a 2.0 is asking for trouble.”
Another bad indicator is that in 2007, the average age of a daytime “Rachael Ray” viewer was 53.4, with only 776,000 women between ages 18 and 49 (the show’s target demo) tuning in. In 2008, both numbers have taken a turn for the worse. The average-age viewer today is 55.1, with only 688,000 women between ages 18 and 49 tuning in.
A rep for Ray pointed out that the average age for Winfrey’s viewers is 54.6, and said, “Our show is renewed through 2010 - so canceling is not an option.”
If Ray is axed, a possible replacement is already in the works: King World is producing a chat show for Marie Osmond, which would be ready by 2010.
But even if Ray loses the syndicated gig, the perky on-air personality still has her Food Network shows, “30 Minutes a Day” and “Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels” along with her magazine, Every Day With Rachael Ray.